Just two weeks into the final BCS season, there are signs that the SEC's seven-year reign might be coming to an end. To some, this proclamation seems a bit alarmist, but hey, if you're the other conferences desperate to get a piece of the action, you'll take any good news you can get.
For the second consecutive week, a top-ranked SEC team lost a high-profile game on the road against an ACC opponent. A week after Georgia was dropped by Clemson in Death Valley, Florida imploded at Sun Life Stadium against a Miami team that was just little bit less inept. Then, in the first big internecine battle within the SEC, Georgia handed South Carolina its first loss.
So after opening the season with six teams in the preseason AP top 12, the SEC will be down to just three unbeaten teams ranked in the top 10, and that number will be reduced by one next week after Alabama goes to Texas A&M. Unless you believe either Mizzou or Tennessee will go undefeated this season (and in that case I've got a bridge to sell you), then there will be at best one unbeaten SEC team by the end of November.
It's possible we'll once again have another Mexican standoff in the SEC East with Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, but all three are already damaged goods two weeks into the season. The Bulldogs likely will be the only team in that division to be in the top 10 when the polls come out on Sunday.
While it's early, this does not bode well for the SEC, which relies on having multiple teams high in the polls to bolster its case when the BCS standings start to matter. This is how Alabama got into the BCS title game the past two years despite having lost a conference game each time.
As many as three other conferences could have multiple teams in the top 10 or thereabout to clog up the polls. The ACC has Clemson and Florida State, and the upper hand in immediate perception after two huge wins over high-profile SEC foes. The Pac-12 has Oregon and Stanford, both already in the top five, and an upwardly mobile UCLA lurking. And the Big Ten has Ohio State and possibly Michigan, coming off an impressive win over Notre Dame.
Of course, none of this is to say the SEC is out of the national championship chase in any way -- that'd be silly, of course -- but its path to an eighth consecutive title-game appearance isn't as gilded as it's been in the past.
This development should be alarming to even Alabama, which might not have the security of the SEC's aura if it were to lose a game this season. That makes next week's showdown at Texas A&M that much more critical for the Crimson Tide, if they don't want to spend the rest of a long season scoreboard-watching.
On the rise
- Michigan, ranked No. 17 in the simulated BCS standings last week, probably will make the biggest leap after a win over BCS-finalist Notre Dame in a much-hyped game in front of a record crowd at the Big House. The Wolverines have a pretty benign schedule before a brutal November finish.
- Georgia should bounce right back into the top 10 after a victory over a top-10 team. But the Dawgs get only a one-week breather before facing another top-10 team in LSU. It's likely that they'll end up facing three top-10 opponents in four games in September.
- The Big Ten just missed going 12-0 for the day, with Indiana's loss to Navy being the only blemish. While the conference teams haven't exactly played a murderer's row schedule, its heavyweights so far have performed up to expectations.
- Florida was pedestrian in last week's win over Toledo and downright awful, at least offensively, in losing to a middling Miami team. The Gators are now at best a longshot to win the SEC East, with no shot at the BCS title game.
- A rebuilt Texas team was expected to be a contender in the weak Big 12. The Horns might still be, but that would just mean the conference is beyond rancid. By way of transitive property, Oregon would be 71 points better than Texas after its beatdown by BYU.
- USC proved last season was no fluke, when it went from preseason No. 1 to losing to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl. You can write the Trojans off early this year and not worry about their worthiness as a national title contender until there's a coaching change.